Open House squatters evicted from second University building

Twenty people have been offered overnight shelter in an East Oxford church

Twenty members of the Osney Open House group who have been forced to leave a second University building have been offered shelter at a church in East Oxford, it has been revealed.

Members of the Osney House Group—previously known as Iffley Open House—have received support from around 200 volunteers, activists and Oxford University students over the last few months.

The group claimed squatters’ rights at the Old Power Station in Osney two weeks ago.

However, following a court hearing last week, the group were served an Interim Possession Order (IPO) which stated they had to vacate the Old Power Station by 4pm on Monday (13th March).

The Old Power Station is owned by the University of Oxford, and there are proposals for the Saïd Business School to lease the building from the University to help meet its requirements for more teaching space.

The Business School have said that any redevelopment plans “will provide further teaching space for our post-graduate and executive business participants”, particularly those who join the School for short executive education programmes. In addition, it says that the redevelopment would ensure there are “catering and facilities for that group and some high quality residential rooms for those who need to stay overnight”.

Speaking to the BBC on the difficulties the group have faced over the last few months, volunteer Miranda Shaw said: “One good thing is that it has created enough of a stir that there are big conversations happening.

“We will be coming together in the coming weeks to meet churches, councils, the university, service providers and police. There is the intention to find creative solutions.”

Another volunteer and group spokesman, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Oxford Times: “We have managed to squirrel away lots of residents’ items among volunteers’ houses and garages.

“This is the official end of the Open House project but we are continuing our support with the residents through casework, trying to help them get jobs and getting their paperwork in place.”

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Before moving into the Old Power Station, the group were squatting in a former VW showroom in Iffley Road, owned by Wadham College.

Since New Year’s Eve the group had being using the building to house up to 20 homeless people. They had been providing cooked meals and washing facilities, as well as skills to help the residents find new work.

Oxford University students, including the ‘Hertford for the Homeless’ campaign, worked alongside local volunteers to aid the homeless residents. However, the leaseholders of the ground floor of the building—The Midcounties Cooperative—issued a possession order to have the squatters evicted at the end of February, sparking demonstrations from activists.

Members of Open House will continue talks with Oxford City Council and Oxford University about long-term solutions to the city’s homelessness crisis.

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